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Water utility opposes planned settlement on lawsuit filed over 2013 Arkansas oil leak


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — An Arkansas water utility has expressed objection to the Justice Department's proposed settlement with Exxon Mobil over a 2013 pipeline spill in the Mayflower neighborhood.

Central Arkansas Water's opposition to the settlement stems from concerns that it doesn't require the Pegasus pipeline be moved away from the Lake Maumelle watershed.

"The United States... ignores the long-term risks and impacts of allowing an aging, decrepit, and flawed pipeline to remain and potentially operate in the drinking water supply for over 400,000 people, only 8 miles from where the Mayflower rupture occurred," utility spokesman John Tynan wrote in the letter released Thursday.

The utility said a federal judge should reject or at least delay the proposed settlement, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1LqsFGy ) reported.

A proposed consent decree with the state and federal governments would settle the lawsuit filed against two of the oil giant's subsidiaries, Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. and Mobil Pipe Line Co.

The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas said in a Friday order that if the parties want to respond to the utility's letter, then they have 14 days to do so.

An Exxon Mobil spokesman said the oil company was reviewing the utility's letter.

The Justice Department has said that negotiating the pipeline's relocation is "not a reasonable alternative," because of "'the current long-term idling of the pipeline, the uncertainty of future operations, and the immense cost and effort that would be involved in ExxonMobil rerouting the existing pipeline,'" Tynan said in the letter.

Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said the department had no further comment beyond what it already has said in court filings.

The utility said the negotiated payments of around $1.88 million to the state and an estimated $3.19 million to the United States "are not nearly sufficient to deter any future misconduct on ExxonMobil's behalf."

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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